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Did Beethoven Kill Black Classical Music?

Rita Dove bookA review of the new book of poems by Pulitzer-winning poet Rita Dove tells the story of a man who could have changed the history of classical music. Instead he disappeared. Here’s Teresa Witz reviewing the book for The Root:

Way, way back in the day, there was an Afro-Polish violinist, a biracial child prodigy of such virtuosity that even Beethoven felt compelled to dedicate a sonata to him. There were honors and accolades and patronage from a prince.

But fortunes changed, as poet laureate Rita Dove describes in her novel-sized book of poems, Sonata Mulattica: A Life in Five Movements and a Short Play. The violinist, George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, and his composer, Ludwig van Beethoven,  performed the sonata together to thunderous acclaim.

The goodwill between them evaporated as the two quarreled over a woman. Beethoven furiously erased Bridgetower’s name and scribbled the name of another violinist when he dedicated the sonata.

That is how the “Sonata Mulattica” became the “Kreutzer Sonata,” one of Beethoven’s most famous works. Through that one fit of jealous retribution, Beethoven wrote Bridgetower out of history.

The Polish black virtuoso, once famous, now forgotten.

Thanks a lot, Ludwig.

Source: The Root